Shoemaker: Kitchen slang for an untalented cook.
While The Elements of Cooking is personal and opinionated and not without its omissions—where is levain, for instance, muddle, and wok, one of the most useful cooking vessels known (I love woks but stay away from the non-stick variety)?—but there is now at least one entry that I think I’ve gotten wrong. I’m grateful here to be able to amend it.
I was in Napa last week to begin work on another cookbook and I, like Alex Witchel, ate at the restaurant Ad Hoc for three nights running, an unalloyed delight (I share Michael Bauer’s affection for this spot in Yountville which serves a single menu, which changes nightly, to all customers).
On the last night, I ate with the restaurant’s impressive chef de cuisine, David Cruz, who took issue with my definition of shoemaker. To call a fellow cook a shoemaker is a not-uncommon put down in kitchens. But talent or no talent was not the point, Cruz said. Shoemaker indicated someone who didn’t care, who, in the heat of service, simply slapped food on a plate, wanting only to get the night over with, to get the food out the door and go home. This indeed is what a shoemaker is, and I’m grateful that Cruz made the distinction.
UPDATE: Eater LA didn’t just link to this post, they actually identified a chef NAMED Shoemaker. I never considered the possibility! He’s now the chef of Bastide, on Melrose. That’s like being a dentist named Hurtz. The guy who gave my wife an epidural was named Dr. Stork, which was cute until Donna’s screams came. I bow to Chef Shoemaker. The work is hard enough without having to overcome what has surely been incessant ribbing from his colleagues.
UPDATE 5/8: This keeps getting better! Chef Cruz has alerted me to an actual dish, Chicken Scarpariello, chicken shoemaker style (chicken with sausage), a cleaned up version of which he has put on the Ad Hoc menu.